10 Apr 2015

A programme for everyone: How we support startups outside London

By Vicky

Until now our accelerator has only been accessible to startups who are based in London, because our programme has been designed around our co-working space at Somerset House (pictured) and a weekly structure of workshops, talks and support. We want to change this.

Over the past month we have been conducting a bit of research to see if there was a way of re-designing the structure of our programme to reach startups beyond London. We’ve been asking our alumni, mentors and other startup supporters how we make this possible without lessening the quality of our programme, so I thought it might be interesting to share our findings with you.

The biggest finding is that being around other startups on an accelerator programme is really important when you are still very early stage. Firstly, working on a startup brings a rollercoaster of emotions and having a support system of other teams going through a similar thing can really give you that extra boost. Secondly, your accelerator peers can offer you a lot of expertise. This wasn’t new information however it made us realise that if we are going to redesign the structure of the programme to make it available to teams outside of London then we need to ensure that there are still opportunities for these necessary relationships to build.

Following on from this point, we recognise that there is often a strong support network for startups in other cities in the UK, and it will be really important for teams based outside of London to make use of these networks, as well as the networks formed through our programme. It often seems that London is the place to be to build your business but this isn’t always true for every team. If we support teams who choose not to move to our co-working space then we will want to see them making use of the networks available in their local areas as well as ours.

There are tons of tools available on the web which are really useful for keeping teams connected. At the moment the BGV team uses Slack to speak on a daily basis when we are out and about doing business, and a writing platform called Poetica so we can read/edit each others work. Through our research we discovered a few other gems: Hackpad, Mural.ly, Trello, Teamreporter and WorkLife. In order for us to support startups we feel it is important to keep on top of day to day activities – normally this is really easy for us as our teams work in our office alongside us. By utilising all of the available tools we will be able to maintain the appropriate level of support from a distance.

So how is our programme going to run for Summer 2015? Rather than spreading our workshops and talks across the programme, we will draw them together in a few 1-2 day sessions, which means that you don’t need to physically be here the entire time. During the time you are not physically here we can connect to you using online tools. For those teams who choose to be based in London we will still be offering our co-working space at Somerset House, and we will still get together every Monday for team updates, hold weekly office hours and be here if you need to tap us on the shoulder.

By opening up our accelerator to teams in other locations we are hoping to break down the barriers to participating in our programme, so that we can increase the diversity in the BGV community and work with the best founders with the best ideas for using tech to change the world.

We would like to say a big thank you to the people and startups who have talked to us about this over the past month; including TalkLife, TreePress, Sentimoto, Wevovler, Overleaf, Oxford Startups, Martin Gogov, Erica Neve, Tara Solesbury and Kelvin Lockwood. If anyone else has any thoughts around this topic then we would love to hear from you.